Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Jeff Rockwell On Training for Longevity

This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to attend a Jeff Rockwell seminar in State College, Pennsylvania at Momentum Fitness. If you have not heard of Rockwell, do not be surprised. He is one of the best kept secrets in jiu-jitsu. He may not be headlining pay per views, but he is an incredible technician and an even better instructor. Once Austin, Texas (where Rockwell is now located) figures out that they have Rockwell in town, the Texas Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu scene is going to change dramatically. [If you know of instructors like Rockwell, talented but well-kept secrets, please email me]

Rockwell spent the majority of the seminar covering his version of the sit-up escape and the system that he built around it, and he touched briefly on his take on the crucifix, which our mutual friend Matt Kirtley is a big fan of. While I wish I was good enough to show you the techniques that Rockwell taught, because they were pretty awesome, I would not be able to do them justice, so you are going to have to contact him or drop in on one of his classes to learn them the right way: directly from Rockwell. What I would like to share is what struck me more than his techniques, and that was a piece of his jiu-jitsu philosophy.

At the end of the seminar, Rockwell talked about different training styles. He said that if you want to win Mundials, you will train one way. If you want to be a UFC champion, you will train another way. If you want to train for longevity, to have fun and enjoy the sport for as long as possible, you will train another away.

Before the seminar started, Rockwell had taken 10 minutes or so to individual tape his fingers. He did not tape them off buddy-style to each other. He carefully wrapped each one, and what he said next explained why.

"For a long time, I played nothing but spider guard and De La Riva guard. It was my game, and everything depended on my grips, so I would hold on tight even when guys were ripping out," Rockwell said. "But I was being too serious and it wasn't sustainable. My knees hurt, and my fingers were a mess. I had to go home and soak my hands after every training session. I just couldn't keep it up. So I completely changed my game, which is where the sit up position came from. I was a black belt, and I changed everything."

Having been frustrated with my own injuries, hearing Rockwell talk about his perspective of jiu-jitsu was refreshing and uplifting. For me, my weak knees make triangle chokes too risky; if someone thrashes their way to an escape, my knees will give out. Since triangle chokes are no longer an option, playing high guard or spider guard is less effective because one of the primary attacks from those positions is no longer available to me. I have had to refocus my guard, making it sweep based, and I too was looking to play more of a seated guard because it put less pressure on my knees.

Then Rockwell said, "And if you're training for longevity, it should be fun. You can train hard and be dedicated, but when you roll, you should always be able to stop and laugh with your training partners at any moment. That's how it should be."

I agree. Training should be fun, and you should think long term. Take care of your body, and develop training habits that will let you train for as long as possible. Thank you, Rockwell.

Completely unrelated: how I felt trying to learn Rockwell's dive under butterfly sweep:


  1. I train with Rockwell @UT BJJ (just starting) and he's been a terrific instructor in every aspect so far.

    I'm glad to see other [much more experienced] people appreciate the value of his time.

  2. Great instructor: I had the chance to train with him recently, in large part motivated by your blog post, so thanks for putting it up. :)